What is swatting? Making or reporting fake threats is a serious crime

Fake shootings reported at schools across Michigan


Four Michigan school districts were the targets of swatting on Tuesday.

Swatting is when someone calls emergency services in an attempt to send police, or a SWAT team, to a certain location.

Michigan State Police said that K-12 schools in Detroit, Jackson, Ann Arbor, and Okemos have been targeted in a series of fake threats. Police said that there are no known credible threats to schools in the state.

Michigan State Police said the caller had a heavy accent and claimed to be a teacher in the school reporting that a student had shot another student.

“Whether these are real threats made by those intent on doing harm or pranks made by kids trying to get a day off, they are real crimes with real consequences. It’s critical that adults and students alike understand the seriousness of these threats and the criminal charges they could face,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

Read more: Series of fake threats target schools across Michigan

What is swatting?

Swatting is when someone makes a hoax call to 911 to send law enforcement, usually a SWAT team, to a particular location.

In many cases, the suspect makes it look like the call to 911 came from the victim’s phone number. Swatting is done for revenge or as a prank, but it could have deadly consequences. The FBI considers it a serious crime.

The FBI reported swatting for the first time in 2008 and numerous people have faced federal charges stemming from swatting incidents since then.

One of the most widely reported swatting cases happened in Wichita, Kansas, in 2017. Andrew Finch, 28, was shot and killed by Wichita police officer Justin Rapp.

Rapp didn’t know that serial swatter Tyler Barriss had called emergency services and reported a fake homicide and hostage situation at Finch’s home.

Barriss pleaded guilty to 51 charges stemming from swatting calls he made. He is currently in federal prison.

What charges could you face for making a fake threat?

The FBI said most swatting cases are now handled by local and state law enforcement agencies.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel warns that swatting, or making threats, can lead to felony charges and a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

In addition to jail or prison time, someone found guilty could face fines of up to $50,000.00.

Making threats of violence can lead to the following charges:

  • Communicating a threat of terrorism, 20-year felony
  • Calling in a bomb threat, a four-year felony
  • Malicious use of a telecommunications device, a six-month misdemeanor
  • Threatening violence against school employee or student, a one-year misdemeanor

Swatting could lead to the following charges:

  • False report of a crime, a 93-day misdemeanor
  • False report resulting in physical injury, a 5-year felony
  • False report resulting in a serious bodily impairment, a 10-year felony
  • False report resulting in a death, a 15-year felony.

How to report threats of violence

Contact your local law enforcement if you receive a threat of violence or know of a threat of violence.

Tips can also be sent through Michigan’s OK2SAY hotline, which is open 24/7. The hotline protects the confidentiality of the reporter’s identity.

OK2SAY can be used to report potential self-harm, harm to others, or crimes directed at students, school employees, or schools in this state.

About the Author:

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.